Thursday, March 4, 2010


“Hi,” I said, introducing myself to the gentleman sitting next to me. “I'm Ed.”
“Hi Ed, I'm Nate.”
“What brings you to this workshop?” I asked.
“New job,” Nate said. “My manager thought it would be good for me to help develop and expand our customer base. I think he was more impressed by all the big words in the brochure. Most of this stuff I already know but a few days at a nice hotel instead of being stuck in a stuffy office is welcome. So what brings you here?”
“Me? I guess a combination of keeping the old skillset current and a little bit of story-mining.”
“Story-mining?” Nate asked.
“Yeah. I'm a writer so I'm always looking for story ideas and as it turns out workshops are always good for at least a handful or so that I can take back with me.”
We were sitting toward the back of the conference room attending a seminar on “Understanding Personal and Professional Interdynamics for the Management and Customization of Business-to-Customer Relationships.”
Say what?
Right. The seminar marketing department should have taken a workshop in “How to Name your Seminars”.
Anyway, we were trying valiantly to stay awake since the presenter was about as interesting as the title of the seminar. There didn't seem to be a lot of new information for either of us but then we weren't exactly paying close attention. We'd make a comment or two, here and there, as we tried to at least be professionally polite to young woman leading the seminar. But it felt like it was going to be a long morning.
Thankfully, there were a couple of ten minute breaks built into the schedule.
After the first break, I returned to my seat. Nate was just opening his briefcase. For some reason it reminded me of that scene in the 1994 movie “Pulp Fiction” when the Travolta character opens the briefcase. Perhaps it was the way the streak of sunlight reflected off the five boxes of Crayola® crayons he had inside.
That's right. Five boxes of crayons inside his briefcase. Of course he had the usual executive stuff as well, but he had … five boxes of crayons inside his briefcase.
Like the Travolta character, I couldn't help but stare inside the case.
“I know,” Nate said. “Not the kind of stuff you expect to see in a briefcase.”
“I gotta admit,” I said. “You're right. Not the kind of stuff I tend to see in briefcases. So, what's the story behind it? Gifts from your kids?”
“Actually no,” he said. “I don't have any kids. These I bought myself and always carry with me.”
Okay, I thought to myself. Either this is a story about to reveal itself or this guy's a little off-center.
Gratefully, he was not off-center. He told me it started when he was a kid. When he began elementary school, his mother always told him to bring some crayons along wherever he went so he would always have something to play with, and if necessary, to share with others. Shortly after his mom gave him that advice, she died. It was his way of always carrying a piece of her with him, even as he grew up and otherwise outgrew the usual season for crayons.
But a funny thing happened as he went to college and eventually into the professional job market. He actually found that coloring was a very relaxing and often creative outlet. And more surprising than one might think, he quite often found himself sharing his crayons with fellow students and eventually with business colleagues.
I didn't let him down. As the seminar droned on, he shared his crayons with me as we sat in the back of the room, coloring. And he was right, I found it relaxing and creative. In fact, I would say I probably gained more out of the time spent coloring than I did from the seminar.
And I carry on the tradition. Whenever I travel, I usually do so with about five boxes of Crayola® crayons. And yes, I continue to be surprised by how many adults are willing to surrender some of their “all-grown-up-ness” for the warm satisfaction found in coloring.
So, is it time for you to surrender?
I think so. Make it a point this week to buy I box of crayons. My personal preference is for the Crayola® brand in the 24-pack.

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